Weak-kneed, giddy with excitement, dizzy from the lack of sleep, Bryan Grayhek nearly fainted in the delivery room when Georgia Leigh squeezed out into his world.
He was hooked the moment he held her. Even before the chimes rang on the hospital’s paging system to welcome the new baby, Georgia was already daddy’s little girl.
“She’ll be a smart cookie,” Grayhek said, cooing into the newborn’s ear. “She might play sports. She’ll do a lot of things. … I just want her to be happy.”
On Thursday, two days after the birth of their child, Grayhek sat in a rocking chair next to his wife’s bed at Sacred Heart Medical Center’s Birth Place. In his arms, he held the biggest miracle of his life – a 7-pound, 15-ounce baby, swaddled in a crocheted, yellow blanket, sucking on her dad’s pinky as she dozed back to sleep.
When his wife, Audrey, became pregnant, everyone told them: “Your life will change forever.”
Grayhek, 26 years old and a network administrator in Spokane, had no idea what those words meant until now.
As people throughout the country celebrate Father’s Day, several area dads shared their thoughts this week on how fatherhood has transformed their lives and the good times they’ve shared with their children and grandchildren.
Spokane, after all, is the birthplace of Father’s Day. In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd was listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at Central United Methodist Church downtown, when it occurred to her that dads also needed their own special day. Her father, William Jackson Smart, was a Civil War veteran who was widowed when his wife died while giving birth to their sixth child. Having been raised by a single father on a rural farm, Sonora Smart Dodd proposed the creation of a day to honor all fathers.
The following year, on June 19, Spokane and the state of Washington celebrated the first Father’s Day. The National Father’s Day Committee was formed in New York City 16 years later. In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed the law that made Father’s Day a national holiday.
Since he became a dad five days ago, Grayhek has already changed dozens of diapers and awakened several times at night to Georgia’s cries. He’s overwhelmed, that’s for sure, but not just with bewilderment and exhaustion. Something stirs inside him whenever he sees his little girl. A wave of emotion sweeps over Grayhek at the thought of having a wife, a child, a family.
“It’s hard to explain, but I can’t believe I can love something so much,” he said.
A few doors down in the same maternity ward, Pete Clancy said fatherhood has taught him to focus on others’ needs and be more selfless. He’s the father of three children – ages 7, 5 and one week old.
“Having a little one is the Lord’s way of teaching you how to serve others,” said Clancy, whose wife, Victoria, gave birth this past week to Malia Noelle at Sacred Heart.
After they started a family, Clancy gave up his sporty, white Volkswagen Bug convertible for a practical and sturdy GMC Safari van. He spent less time playing soccer and devoted those hours to playing with his kids. He also sleeps a lot less these days and drinks more coffee.
“I schedule my life around my children,” said Clancy, who is taking a month off from his job at Group Health to run the household as his wife recovers from childbirth. “The Lord calls me to serve him by taking care of my children, to give my life for them if necessary, to give them my heart. I want to be the best dad I can be.”
Other fathers and grandfathers also shared fond memories of the times they shared with their children – camping trips, bike rides, soccer games and Little League. They recalled weddings and reunions, Father’s Day cards and phone calls from far away.
The three children of Keith LaMotte are now grown, but the 66-year-old Spokane man still revels in fatherhood and these days, grandfatherhood.
“You never stop being a father,” said the retired sales representative.
Last month, LaMotte was both touched and honored when his 15-year-old grandson invited him to perform with his band. A trumpet player since he was 10, LaMotte played his horn with The Electrostatics, a progressive pop-punk band, at Fat Tuesday’s. There they were, for a brief half-hour or so – a bunch of teens with electric guitars and a balding, old man who wore the same kind of foam ear plugs that he puts on whenever he uses his chainsaw. Before they played, they were introduced on stage as “The Electrostatics and Grandpa.”
“I played as loud as I could right into a microphone and still couldn’t hear myself,” recalled LaMotte, who wore a T-shirt that night that said, “No Job, No Car, No Money – But I’m In A Band.”
“Being invited to ‘hang out’ with your adult children, your grandchildren and their friends may be the most satisfying payback for all the years of being ‘the father,’ ” LaMotte said. “They actually think I’m fun!”
Jack Poole, of Spokane, is 84, and his six children – including two stepkids and one who’s adopted – are also now retired or planning for retirement. “They are all among my closest friends, and most are close friends of each other,” said Poole. “That’s the best reward I could have asked for.”
When his children turned 18 and left home, Poole was determined to mind his own business and stay out of their lives unless they asked for his input, “trust(ing) that I had supplied them with whatever fathering they needed.” That was the advice he got from his own dad, and it was what he told his kids to do with their own children.
“One of the real joys of life is … to see that it worked,” he said. “We are all independent thinkers, believers and doers, but we know how to love each other, warts and all.”
Over at the Men’s Room on the lower South Hill, Lance Greeson was surrounded by framed photographs of shiny Corvettes, Sports Illustrated magazines and hair products with manly fragrances and names like “Manuever” and “Go Clean.” With the television featuring golf on ESPN, Greeson reflected on his own experiences as a dad while he waited to get his haircut.
Five years ago, when he and his wife decided to start a family, Greeson requested to be honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force. As an airman first class, he used to spend about three to four months a year in Saudi Arabia, where he loaded missiles and bombs on F-15s and F-16s. Now that he’s with the National Guard, Greeson can help care for their 8-month-old son, Brody.
He delights in watching his son develop and grow every month, especially as Brody learns to crawl.
“I wanted to see my kid grow up,” said Greeson, explaining why he left the Air Force after 10 years.
Today, he hopes to spend Father’s Day relaxing in front of the television watching NASCAR – with his boy.
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